What is the Pinning Ceremony for Nursing Grads?

A nursing graduate getting 'pinned' at graduation.

A nursing graduate getting ‘pinned’ at graduation.

On a Friday in June, 25 students stood in front of their family, friends and instructors as they participated in the nursing pinning and candle lighting ceremony. This ceremony is a rite of passage for the bachelor of science in nursing degree as they exit the world of nursing education and into the role of a professional nurse.

The tradition of the nursing pin and the ceremonial pinning we know today actually originated in the 1860s at the Nightingale School of Nursing at St. Thomas Hospital in London. Having been recently awarded The Red Cross of St. George for her selfless service to the injured and dying in the Crimean War, Florence chose to extend this honor to her most outstanding graduate nurses by presenting each of them with a medal for excellence.

IMG_4052The Wolverton Royal Hospital in England initiated the tradition of presenting all graduates with a badge. The first pin was presented to the graduating class of 1880 at the Bellevue Hospital of Nursing in New York City. The pin presented to graduates was both beautiful and symbolic. It featured a crane in the center for vigilance, encircled with a band of blue for constancy, and an outer band of red for mercy and relief of suffering. Dr. Opas reports that by 1916 the practice of pinning new nurses was common in schools throughout the United Kingdom and North America.

When the nursing pinning ceremony was first initiated in the 1860s, the lamp was a symbol of the care and devotion the nurse administers to the sick and injured in the practice of nursing. After nurses were pinned, Nightingale would light a lamp and pass the flame to each nurse as they recited the pledge into nursing.

Nursing students at Minnesota School of Business (MSB) – Richfield chose the UTA Son Professional Nursing Pledge. The nursing pin was designed by the first graduating class from MSB in 2005. The symbol of the lamp recognizes the history of nursing, while the hands display the actions of embracing those in need of care. The words surrounding the heart explain the characteristics that strengthen each person to be the best nurse possible. We believe that knowledge guides clinical skills and decision-making, compassion strengthens relationships with those requiring care, and integrity provides consistent core values.

The pinning ceremony is a special moment for our students. This is the moment that they are met on stage with a loved one who gives them their nursing pin. The pin signifies the transition into the amazing world of professional nursing. Personally, I feel as if I just had 25 of my own children grow up and leave the nest. Over the past three years we (the instructors) have guided them on this road of becoming a professional nurse. This is our time to let them soar.

References: Opas, S. (1999, December). History of the Cap, Pin and Lamp. RN Magazine.

Written by MSB-Richfield Dean of Nursing, Kendra Saal